Things Macintosh

Apple Is a Company

Warm fuzzies aside, never ever forget that Apple is a company - first, foremost and always.

4 October 1999 - Rodney O. Lain - 1999.10.04

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.
  - H. L. Mencken, writer, iconoclast, Different Thinker

Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.
  - Henry A. Kissinger

He who loves the world as his body may be entrusted with the empire.
  - Lao-tzu

You writers and grammar addicts will appreciate this.

In my writing, when I use the word "Apple" in a sentence, I sometimes have a slight "brain burp" concerning how I refer to the company vis-à-vis pronoun usage. For a split second, I sometimes have to remind myself consciously about the proper pronoun to use in reference to the company.

For example, suppose I have a news story that begins thusly: "Today, Apple Computer, caving in to intense public pressure, finally hired Rodney Lain as vice-president of retail sales, answerable only to God and to Steve Jobs (some may think that's redundant). Industry pundits predict that Apple Computer has its hands full with this militant brotha who once disrupted last year's PC World Expo keynote address by making sucking sounds through his teeth while the PC drones maintained their customary slack-jawed silence during Bill Gates' speech...."

In an example like the above, I often wondered whether or not I should replace the pronoun "its" with the plural personal pronoun "their," or even with the singular personal pronouns "him" or "her."

I think that my pseudo-dilemma is a metaphor for the average Mac fan's relationship with Apple Computer. Many of us have anthropomorphized Apple, Inc. - in other words, we have given human characteristics to an inanimate "object." Is this hard to believe? We do it with our Macintosh computers all of the time, so it shouldn't be any major leap of logic to believe that people have projected human personality onto Apple Computer, Inc.

We unconsciously believe that Apple Computer is this great, altruistic, philanthropic entity that selflessly creates candy-colored computers and gives them away by the thousands (we don't buy them, the most delusional Mac fanatics may reason - we merely make contributions to The Cause, $1199 and $1599 at a time). We unconsciously picture Steve Jobs in a long, flowing robe, tied at the waist with a gold sash. He has a long white beard. He stands in a righteous, almost godly, pose. His left hand holds a scroll (the Book of Macintosh, perhaps?); his right hand points heavenward. A halo encircles his head; his cherubic face almost glows from his righteousness. In the background, there are chords of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" strumming lightly: "Mine eyes have seen the glory...."

Inevitably, disillusionment sets in when we have a bad personal experience with Apple Computer. We find out that Apple's (I almost said "their") tech support can leave just as much to be desired as a Microsoft's tech support call on a bad day.

Or maybe disillusionment sets in when that newly purchased Rev. A iMac didn't live up to expectations. Or was it that copy of OS 8.5 that had you subsequently updating most of your software (including updating OS 8.5 to 8.5.1) - lots of time spent downloading software when you wanted to spend it with Sherlock, your "Internet Search Detective."

I belabor the point, but you get it.

In a fit of epiphanic anger, the unthinkable dawns upon you: Apple Computer (gasp!) doesn't always have your best interests at heart. Apple is (double gasp!) just like every other company, contrary to what Apple's "Think Different" marketing has led you to believe.*

* No, I have not had a problem with Apple, but I have vicariously experienced problems: my friend Juan had his "vintage" PowerBook stolen. His insurance company replaced it with a "WallStreet" PowerBook G3. This was during the time that Apple offered the choice of a copy of Virtual PC or an extra, free 64 MB of RAM. The problem was the fact that Apple (or the 3rd party) providing the RAM, said that Juan did not qualify for the upgrade, since technically the insurance company bought the computer. Haggling ensued (to be fair, there was a higher up who demanded that the RAM be given to him - but the corporate right hand knew now what the left hand was doing). Suffice it to say, he did get the RAM....

The reason I thought about this is because, I was about to write a "gripe column." I won't even bother to say what was the issue, but I will say that once I accepted the idea that Apple is a company and is behaving in ways consistent with the impersonal, globe-spanning corporation that it is, my gripe seemed insignificant.

I love Apple; I hate Apple. Arrgh.

Another reason that I wanted to bring this thought to the fore is due to the recent action that Apple took to prevent photos of the next-version of the iMac from being published on the internet.

Apple has its bottom line and its intellectual property to protect. Maybe I don't understand the why's of the matter, but I do understand enough to accept their doing what they did.

Apple Computer is a company. A company that makes arguably the best computer in the world, but a company nonetheless.

I hate Apple; I love Macintosh.

It doesn't make me feel better to say that, but it does keep things in perspective.

Rodney O. Lain (1968-2002) called himself a fashion victim: He liked wearing socks with his sandals. When he wasn't dispensing fashion advice, Rodney wrote for Low End Mac, The Mac Observer, Applelinks, and many other websites. Rodney lived in Minnesota. His own website was iBrotha.com, and we have collected as much of his writing that has since disappeared from the Web as possible in The Rodney O. Lain Archive.

The most widely read Things Macintosh columns:

  1. Apple is a company, 10/4/1999
  2. The main difference between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, 1/17/2000
  3. The $600 iMac, 12/24/1999
  4. Apple will rule the computer world, 11/17/1999
  5. I'm not paying $20 for my OS X upgrade, 2001.07.25.
  6. A Mac is like Prozac, 10/13/1999
  7. I'm a drop the funk bomb on ya: Milking the Macintosh for all it's worth, 2001.03.20.
  8. More links and links to memorial articles in the Things Macintosh index.

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